Lenten Noonday Preaching Series
Calvary Episcopal Church
back now for a minute and journey with me to when you were a
kid. You were about nine, ten, eleven, twelve, somewhere in there;
it will vary for some of you, maybe a little earlier, maybe even
early teens. Play with me in your mind that time in your life.
Remember something like this?
was a girl or a boy in that, we'll call it, fifth grade class,
and she or he had been in the class several years before, but
you never noticed before. Along about the fifth grade, you began
to say, "She's kind of nice or he's kind of nice," and
you found yourself making sure you were somewhere in the hall
where she or he was.
a matter of fact, you discovered that you got your tray in the
cafeteria in such a way that you were in line with her, and maybe,
if you were lucky, you got to sit at the same table with her
or him. You even discovered that person laughed at the funny
things you said. And you remember one time smelling her hair
and thinking how good that smell was, although when you were
lucky enough to sit behind her, you played with it and would
twist it and make her mad. You remember thinking to yourself, "I
think he or she is the nicest person I've ever met."
time you could, you would walk home so you could walk part way
with her or him. Oh, it was out of your way, but you always made
up some silly excuse for why you really wanted to go the other
way. When you were driving somewhere, you asked your mother or
daddy to take the car down that street. You just felt good as
you passed her house.
thought a few times about picking up the phone and calling her,
but you wouldn't dare do that. No, you wouldn't dare, but you
thought about it. You sometimes thought when the phone would
ring, "What if he is calling me?" Never happened, of
came Valentine's Day, and valentines appeared
on the desk. You opened them and some were corny and silly.
Then there was one that said something that was kind of nice,
and you opened it and it said, "Guess who?" You
went, "Oh," and you took that valentine home. You
kept it and you threw away the others. You kept it and you
put it under the socks in your drawer where nobody would
day, just on a lark, you said to your best friend, "You
know what?" and then you would fill in the blanks with his
name or her name
"I think" so and so "is
really nice." And before lunch time, the whole school was
saying, "You are sweethearts. You are sweethearts. You got
a crush on her. She's got a crush on you."
was not anything like what it was. It was totally ruined. You
weren't her sweetheart. She
wasnt your sweetheart. It had nothing to do with that.
It had to do with the fact that you thought she was the nicest
person you had ever met. You
loved to be around her. It had nothing to do with all that other
stuff. It was all ruined.
the whole school knew, and you could hardly look at her, much
less pick up your tray. You avoided her every time you turned
around. You didn't want to walk home on the same street. It was
all gone, because they had totally mistaken what it was all about.
some of us sitting here today, we've already got the name; we
already remember who it was. Oh, we might not have heard of that
person since the fifth grade, seventh grade, ninth grade, but
you remember. For me it was Jackie Snyder. I don't know where
Jackie Snyder is now, but she was really a nice person.
spiritual journey, Jesus said, is a lot like being a child. You
see, the spiritual
journey that you are on is not unlike that innocent honesty,
the integrity of what it is like to be ten or eleven and like
another person. Some of us in this room right
now have never ever found another person quite like that relationship.
my priesthood of about forty years, about five times I have married
people seventy, seventy-five, who came back together after they
were widows or widowers and they met their sixth grade, fourth
grade, fifth grade friend. The bonding was as true and as real
as they knew it was at ten years old.
spiritual journey that you and I are on is not a public thing. It's
not a thing to be talked about. Jesus said that when you
say your prayers, go in the closet, shut the door. Your Father
in Heaven will seek you and be with you in secret.
had this happen to him and his best friends. They
were not kids, but they were best friends. I can't even imagine
the friendship between Jesus and his thee best friends: Peter
and the brothers, James and John. Scripture doesn't go into
telling us what it was like for four men to bond together
like those men did. I think it was like nothing you and I
have ever experienced. The deep and profound respect and
admiration, deep love they had (men don't use that word often)
for each other.
often said this to them: "Don't talk about it. Don't talk
about our bonding and our friendship and our love for one another.
Just keep quiet."
of those times they went up on a mountain. They got up there
and something happened that was beyond description. We call it
in scripture, in theology, the "transfiguration." I
don't know what it was. None of us know really. It says just
a few verses about Jesus being transformed, but whatever it was,
it was so important, so powerful, that Peter said, "Let's
build a monument up here. We've got to put something up here
that's going to remember this moment." That
was certainly not being quiet about it. Jesus said, "No,
no monuments, nothing."
they were going down the mountain together, walking side by side,
Jesus said, "By the way, don't mention what you've just
experienced." Can you imagine what that was like for Peter?
Keep his mouth shut. Peter?
can imagine if it was contemporary and we could change the language
into today, it would be like Jesus saying to Peter, "For
crying out loud, Peter, don't put this on the Internet. Don't
your prayers is not a time for a microphone to be placed in front
of you or for anybody to be listening or watching. Jesus knew
this. The beginning of
that spiritual journey is to keep the treasure of the private
relationship between you and God growing without overexposing.
see, today with things like television, magazines, papers, and
Internet, it is as if everything that has any worth at all is
going to be out there somewhere for me to see, read or watch.
truth is, the best stuff in life, the stuff that we live
and die for, is not out there. It is in here. Because
it is so public and available, we tend not to journey ourselves
in developing whats called the interior life. That
is what it is all about.
interior life. If you overexpose it, if you get caught up with
talking too much about it, it will lose its efficacy to be your
journey with your God.
I first started my journey discovering who God was for me and
how I could think about God other than as a policemen, or a judge,
or a funny man on a cloud, I met a man in Nashville. I was a
disc jockey in downtown Nashville at the time. He took me on
this journey, and I began to get more and more excited about
reading spiritual things, praying and spending time.
said, "You need to
spend some time every day practicing the presence of God in your
life." I said, "Oh, you dont
understand. Im busy. Im a disc jockey. Im playing
records. The telephone is ringing. 'Would you put this request
on for so and so? Would you make this request?' Im answering
the phone, playing these things, reading commercials."
he said a fascinating thing to me. He said, "The next time
the phone rings and the request is for a love song to be dedicated
to somebody, in your heart, after youve said, 'This is
dedicated to so and so,' say in your heart, 'God this is my love
song to you.'" I thought that was corny, given the kinds
of popular songs I was playing. But let me tell you, you can
time youre in the car listening to the radio and you hear
a song that has something to do with love and affection and romance,
see if you can say, "That
song is being played right now for me to sing to you, Lord God.
For me to dedicate these few moments in the car to you, Lord
God." You can practice the presence of God
even with the radio on.
think I would have told my manager, "Now Im here playing
these records to the Glory of God," or any of the other
announcers in the team or the secretary who was sitting outside
the big glass window? It has taken me forty years to tell anybody,
and Im telling you today.
real things, the real moments when we practice
the presence of God in our journey (except
perhaps when we're with a trusted spiritual counselor), these
are for you. These
are your treasured moments.
Greeley, the great sociologist and Roman Catholic priest at the
University of Chicago, did a study about fifteen years ago on
people and their religious experiences. He discovered that many,
many Americans have had religious experiences of deep and profound
meaning. Most of them have never told a soul.
think about Pentecostals having them all the time, because that
is part of their liturgical tradition, speaking in tongues and
so forth. We dont think of those in the more mainline churches.
He said, "Guess what? Of all the people who had these, the
people who had the most," hold onto your hats," were
Episcopalians, and the people who never told a soul were Episcopalians."
of you are nodding because you too have had that journey. That
is what the journey is about. For those of you who have not,
part of it is to be able to live this life of the spiritual,
quietly developing yourself in relationship to God, not revealing
it to others.
know that kid from your early days, or even folks right now whom
you admire greatly, and you know the treasure of those relationships.
You even remember that you maybe
got a valentine yourself that had deep meaning.
is trying to send you valentines every day. That
is the kind of God we worship. You go to work tomorrow morning,
and there are going to be valentines, although you cant
see them. Youve
got to develop the eye to see those blessings that God is
giving you. They all say, "Guess Who?" They're
just not very visible.
of the things you can do during Lent is to say, "Im
going to begin to develop the technique of spotting some of those "Guess
Who's?" on my desk, in my living room or wherever I spend
most of my time."
is trying to break through to you to be your valentine. God
wants you to love God just the way God loves you. Will
you be my valentine? Will you love me as much as I love you?
That is the gospel.
of us go flitting along, paying no attention to the fact that
God is wanting to be loved by us. Every minute of every day God
is saying to God's Self, "I think shes neat. I think
hes as close to the best as I could ever produce. I love
the stuffings out of her. I wish she would love me back, just
a little, the way I love her." ... Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews